Saturday, November 29, 2008

At Jacquelyn's

Then you might enjoy the kaleidoscopic version afterward.

Friday, November 28, 2008

In Autumn

The Oak

As always, come November, the leaves
of the oak turn yellow, fall through
a few golden days, leaving piles
of brown paper scrolls breaking apart.

Someone sweeps the drift of leaves away.
The oak tree stands with black wiry heart
exposed. I mind the winter less for what
I feel the oak must know from fall to spring.

"Pundits" and "Experts" = "Soothsayers"

"The mind of man depends for its health and growth upon studious investigation and the findings of the truth as revealed around him. But as society progressed, it developed soothsayers that filled the minds of men with imaginations and falsehoods. Even today these soothsayers occupy editorial chairs, public platforms, and pulpits. The minds of men have been so filled with their imaginations and falsehoods that the most pronounced of the soothsayers are chosen as rulers and governmental officials." -- Henry M. Tichenor, c. 1925

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Honoring the First Man to Refuse to Serve in Iraq...

...marine, Stephen Funk. I dedicate this verse to him (I keep rewriting it so I cannot guarantee that it is the final final version -- and, in fact, the version I first posted here has been changed about four times later on):

The Deserter

Walking away from the battle,
I left my former self behind.
I was silk shadow for a time.
I slid along walls. I did not mind

leaving the Honor that makes men cattle.
I hope now to be, and to have, a friend.
Wander on, warrior that I used to mime.
As you pass, you free me to be Kind.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Zodiac

A Henry M. Tichenor essay in early 20th century periodical, THE APPEAL TO REASON, had interesting history and comments on the Zodiac (which means “a little animal” – referring to those “little animals” early humans saw in the starry constellations prominent in the sky at different times of the year).

Chaldean doctors of divinity, as well as their doctors of medicine, relied upon these signs. “When the moon happened to be passing through the sign of the member of the body upon which a surgical operation seemed necessary, the operation was postponed.”

So much symbolism refers to the number 12 – the 12 tribes of Israel, the 12 apostles of Jesus (often pictured in medieval art as each relating to one of the twelve signs of the Zodiac), and the day too is divided into two parts of 12 hours each.

(Somewhere I heard that when Odysseus shot an arrow through the holes in 13 axe heads, in Homer’s THE ODYSSEY, it was symbolic of the sun passing through the 13 moons of the year.)

Tichenor article quotes a French scientific writer, Charles Francois Dupuis (1742-1809), who interprets “the twelve labors of the ancient god and savior Hercules” as “astrological allegories, representing the passage of the sun through the twelve signs of the Zodiac.”

“In the older mythology, that preceded Christianity, Hercules, who fought the serpent, Python, became purified, and passed through a cycle of twelve labors. He became a sun-god, whose Easter was the Vernal equinox, the resurrection of the green earth. Hercules, like the Christ of a later period, was the son of a human mother and a divine father… Alemene and Zeus….”

Christian worship took from the ancient worship of the three constellations, Taurus, Aries, and Pisces. “The worship of Taurus – the bull of Egypt – gave way to the worship of Aries, the lamb of Palestine; and Pisces, the fishes.“

The signs of the Zodiac “were carried by the different tribes of the Israelites on their standards; and Taurus, Leo, Aquarius, and Scorpio [Dan replacing the scorpion with the eagle during that time] – the four signs of Reuben, Judah, Ephriam, and Dan – [were] placed at the four corners of their encampment, evidently in allusion to the cardinal points of the sphere, the equinoxes and solstices, when the equinox was in Taurus.”

“Among the early Christians was a sect called the Ophites, or Ophians [meaning “snake”] who worshiped the serpent.” It is fascinating that the one change made to the original Zodiac was that the scorpion replaced the serpent. So your Scorpio friends are actually your Snake friends.

“The Ophite system had its Trinity: (1) the Universal God, the First Man; (2) his conception, the Second Man; (3) a female Holy Spirit. From her, the Third Man, Christ, was begotten by the First and Second.” I leave it to you to define what process this attempts to describe, and the stages of the process. I know there is an old theme among poets and mystics: “The First Man Must Die.”

“Aries, the Ram: A northern constellation, usually named as the first sign in the Zodiac, into which, when the sun enters the vernal equinox in March, [and] the days and nights are of equal length. Dating back into ancient Egypt Aries has been represented as the lamb that takes away the sins of the world.” I suppose the spring lambs, sweet to see and delicious to eat, are a prominent part of the month of March.

“Taurus, the Bull: The second sign in the Zodiac, called by the Arabs ‘Ataur.’ Taurus represents the Egyptian god Osiris. In Greek mythology, Taurus is the bull into which Zeus transformed himself in order to carry Europa, the daughter of Agenor, king of Phoenicia, to the Island of Crete.” Also, it is in this season that “cows bring forth their calves.”

“Gemini, the Twins [are] seen in May, the stars Castor and Pollux, the fabled twins of Jupiter who, disguised as a swan, mated with the mortal, Leda.

“Doubtless the original meaning of the sign Cancer was to represent the apparent slow movement of the sun in June, similar to the movement of the crab.”

“Leon, the Lion: The fifth sign in the Zodiac, contains but one star of the first magnitude, known as Regulus, or Coeur Leonis, the Lion’s Heart. The intense heat of July is symbolized by the figure of an enraged lion. The feasts and sacrifices of the ancients celebrated in July – in honor of the sun (which was represented in the form of a lion) – were called ‘Leonitica,’ and the officiating priests were called ‘Leones.’ The numerous popes assuming the name of Leo still show the persistency of the ancient rites.”

“Virgo, the Virgin: The sixth sign of the Zodiac, is represented in the Greek Venus, the Egyptian Isis, and the Christian Virgin Mary. Holding in her right hand the ripened fruit, Virgo can also be seen in the Hebrew story of Eve and the apple [representing] the productive powers of nature as disclosed in the harvest time…”

“Libra, the Balance: The seventh sign of the Zodiac, opposite to Aries, is symbolized by a pair of scales. This signifies that when the sun enters the sign of Libra, about September 21, the days and nights are equal, as though weighed in a balance, [the balance point being] the Autumnal equinox…”

”Sagittarius, the Archer: The ninth sign of the Zodiac … In ancient mythology Sagittarius was pictured as a centaur …”

“Capricornus, the Goat: The tenth sign of the Zodiac, which the sun enters on December 21, called the winter solstice, and having the longest night in the year. In Greek legend, Capricornus was fabled as Pan, the son of Mercury and the nymph, Arcadia, woodland deity of shepherds. Pan was half man and half goat.” Or it could represent “the heavenly goat Amalthaea, who fed Zeus with her milk. In Norse mythology a similar legend presents the goat Heidrun, who furnished the gods of Asgard with mead, served in the skulls of slaughtered enemies.”

“Aquarius, the Water Bearer: The eleventh sign of the Zodiac, in which the sun enters in January, and so-called because of the rainfall during that period. Aquarius is the fabled Ganymede of Attic legends, who, on account of his rare beauty, was carried by the gods to Olympus to serve as cup-bearer.”

“Pisces, the Fishes: The twelfth sign of the Zodiac, is recognized in the twelve apostolic fisherman. … In the vestibule or approaches to Catholic churches is usually found a vase filled with water (called “Piscina’), and this water is considered holy. … In the worship of ‘Pisces’ may be found the true secret of the origin of the rite of baptism. The Fish-god, Oannes, is said to have come out of the Erythraean Sea and taught the Babylonians all kinds of useful knowledge. ‘Ionnes’ or “Jonas” went headlong into the sea and into a fish.”

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“Wipe out Every Rat and Mouse” through “a wonderful new scientific discovery called Imperial Virus”

Monday, November 17, 2008

15 Nov 2008 Civil Rights Rally (anti-Prop 8)

Once again modern technology has defeated me so there is a messy bunch of photos in the Flickr slot that I wish I could delete, but I guess they will continue to be on my blog, like flotsam. I had wanted to open up to a slide show.
You can also paste the following site in search and when it opens, click "slide show":

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Poet Valzhyna Mort

On 11 November 2008, I went to hear Belarusian poet, Valzhyna Mort, reading poems, both in English and in her native language, from her debut poetry collection, Factory of Tears, at The Center for the Art of Translation. Her poetry was as wonderful as her looks. Inevitably, San Francisco's poet laureate Jack Hirschman was there as he is a wonderful translator of Russian poetry and added his knowledge of Belarus history in the final question and answer period. Ms. Mort not only appreciates the art of translation, it has become part of her art: Writing from her first inspiration in her native language, she then translates the verse into English, to see how what she has written looks in a separate world, with a different mythos, which inspires her to return and deepen her own original language version.

In Obamaland


Life will be grand
In Obamaland.

Stay away from the fear.

Folks get a helping hand
In Obamaland.

Stay away from the sneer.

Jerks no longer demand
In Obamaland.

Greet the change coming near:

The just take a stand
In Obamaland.

Laugh at the smirk and the jeer.

Love’s in command
In Obamaland.

All, get ready to hear

Our happy band
In Obamaland.

If you want to join us, raise your hand.
Let's sing and dance in O, Obamaland.


I wanted to buzz through each roll of microfilm of the old socialist magazine, THE APPEAL TO REASON, on loan from the Kansas Historical Society. Then I realized I did not want to miss the weekly articles of a Henry M. Tichenor who seems to know all history in fascinating detail, leaping back and forth in time. And then there is also “The Book of Life,” the lengthy weekly columns by Upton Sinclair, that later becomes “The Book of Love.” Sinclair writes, in the 25 June 1921 column, “If you listen to the defenders of the present capitalist order, you may learn that it is an honest and beneficent order, ordained by nature and by God as well; a permanent order, and one which would be ruined by change. Those who persist in talking about changing it are described as dreamers and Utopians, theorists and cranks, long haired men and short haired women.” The title of another his columns is still the unresolved question in the U.S.: “Democracy or Empire?”

Unfortunately, I am not sure I have the time or patience to go through the many, many microfilms, and may have to take long breaks from that task.

The Appeal to Reason has an exhausting idealism, wonderful humans dreaming up the best resolutions for all issues, political and personal – all good, progressive ideas. It was a feverish period when the Wobblies won some of the basic human rights we have today, many clubbed, given long prison sentences; many shot down in the streets. Even the participants in these activities came to feel that want they wanted was “a dream” – or not something that could be accomplished in those decades – or in that century. The basic, unjust, anti-Democracy forces in the U.S. remain in control. In some ways, conditions are worse. I know that everything my father, president of a small town union, won for the workers of our hometown factory have been obliterated. One of my brothers worked in a factory where workers were not even paid a wage, only paid by the number of articles they could produce, and they are permitted only one week of vacation a year – and only on the one week designated by the factory. The work his wife was doing was taken over by workers in Mexico.

While I probably agree with the dream of socialism as defined by people like Eugene Debs, such terms as “socialism” and “capitalism” undoubtedly oversimplify on the one hand, creating deadlocks triggered simply by ill-defined words; and at the same time, they may overcomplicate with abstract explanations and proposed social structures, where it might be better to stick to basic touchstone ideas, such as “Is this a proposal that respects monetary values or humane values?” “Does this represent ‘collaboration and relationship’ over ‘competition and domination’? Of course, the greedy and power-hungry will always need to be regulated, and will never comprehend what is meant by “humane” and “inter-relationship.”

Jumping to the final issues of the Appeal, when the yearly subscription went up from 50 cents to $1.00 (at a time when the average annual salary was less than $600), the sense was creeping in that the magazine was dying from lack of support, and, as with the destruction of the power of the I.W.W., through government oppression and violence.
For the government has an army at its disposal, and the government represents those who are disciples of what can only be defined by some term like capitalism, and will use the Army to preserve that system that benefits a certain elite and a mesmerized middle class. I have failed to note that the great founder and champion of The Appeal to Reason, Julius Wayland, depressed by the death of his wife and the ongoing smear campaigns against him, committed suicide on 10 November 1912. Ideal aims frustrated, idealism can lead to a self-destructive disillusionment, as Wayland’s suicide message included, “The struggle under the competitive system is not worth the effort.”

Reading the magazine, one sees that little has changed from then until now - the same issues, the same intelligent people complaining about the same problems -- but there are good comments, analyses, descriptions, such as

“A Niagara of goods of all sorts is poured out, and we call it prosperity. We are so proud of it that we make it into a religion…. But then suddenly a strange and bewildering thing happens. All at once, and without warning, orders fall off, values begin to drop, business collapses, factories are shut down, and millions of men are thrown out of jobs…. Capitalist prosperity is a spasmodic thing,” and the best you can hope for, each time it fails, is some form of paternalistic pity.

Some of the conclusions in “Stop the Next War By Exposing the Last One!” will sound familiar to all of us in the shadow of the U.S. wars of 2008:
“Has America more or fewer friends abroad then it had in 1914 or 1916?
"Are we more ‘united,’ as we were informed that we would be?
“Is there less mutual fear and suspicion among us?
“Are our personal liberties more or less secure than they were?
“Is it easier for the masses to earn a living than before?
“Are the social poles nearer together or wider apart?
“Can you imagine a more colossal or vicious conspiracy than one in which the ‘leaders of the people’ in every walk of life are implicated as liars, and in which the dupe is a nation of one hundred million people – a nation which is constantly informed that it is the most intelligent on earth?”

It is fascinating to read in the magazine the events as they were happening at the time that became history or the subjects of fictional treatments: “Isadora Duncan is about to leave Paris to go to Moscow to establish a school for Russia children.” Margaret Sanger proposes that women learn about birth control, and the magazine offers many books geared to women. There is news of the trials of Italian immigrants, Nicola Sacco and Bartoleomeo Vanzetti, their wives and children wailing in the courtroom, as the innocent men are condemned.

After spending an hour with Bartoleomeo Vanzetti, on 7 June 1922, in the Charlestown in Boston, Upton Sinclair wrote about “this humble Italian working man….an idealist and an apostle of a new social order….He is simple and genuine, openminded as a child, sensitive and possessing that innate refinement which makes good manners without need of teaching. He has devoted his life to the service of his fellow wage workers and is still serving them and knows it well. [The government has] conspired to send such a man to the gallows….This brother of ours must be saved: warm-hearted, brave, and true, the precious life that is in him must not be strangled by the hangman’s noose!” In 1927, these innocents were executed. Given an architectural tour of Boston by Robert Minichiello I was in the Catholic Church which commemorates Sacco and Vanzetti in a stained glass window.

The Appeal seemed a place where intelligent people could debate. One of the ongoing debates, carried on in a civilized, almost light-hearted manner was “Has Life Any Meaning? A Debate Between Frank Harris and Percy Ward.” Ward remarks, “Has life any meaning? Judging from the size of this audience, there is evidently some doubt about the question.” Mr. Ward concludes that death, pain, and calamity trumps meaning. Harris quotes Goethe: “Keep your doubts, your fears, your pessimism to yourself. I have enough doubts and fears of my own. But, if you have any hopes, if you have any encouragements, to give men in this world, then give them and you will become a benefactor to your kind.” As Ward had relied on Prospero’s final speech in THE TEMPEST, that life is an illusion, Harris quotes the Shakespeare imperative: “Ripeness is all.”

The 13 November 1920 issue reported that in the national elections, SOCIALISTS POLLED OVER 2,000,000. In that election, Eugene V. Debs was the Presidential candidate of the Socialist Party while still in prison, and won a surprising percentage of the votes.

The 20 July 1921 issue reports that “Texas Now Holds U.S. Mob Record”:…Civil liberty in Texas is bleeding to death. Ten times within a short period have men been beaten, whipped, tarred and feathered, mutilated, branded with acid….Although mob madness has included with the rage of its terror eight whites to two negroes, it has dealt most savagely with the blacks, mutilating one and burning on the forehead of the other the initials of the Ku Klux Klan….One man in Bremman was mobbed for talking German … J.L. Cockrell, a negro dentist of Houston, was whipped, tarred, feathered and mutilated following charges that he had lived with a white woman who had mistaken him for a white man.” I guess you do not need me to suggest that “mutilated” probably means castrated, or the mutilation of his genitals, and that the woman, to save herself, may have felt she had to deny him.

The 4 March 1922 issue reports on U.S. savagery in the Dominican Republic: “The republic was absolutely quiet in November, 1916…Not an American dollar or an American life was even threatened when the fleet ordered to San Domingo City by Secretary Daniels, in agreement with Secretary of State Lansing, committed its act of war or piracy by seizing the capital city and suppressing the Dominican government. When the Dominican congress began proceedings for impeachment of President Jiminez, the American representative offered armed support to Jiminez against the congress. Jiminez resented the insult and resigned at once. Then the minister of war was escorted to the American legation and offered a ‘corrupt proposal’ if he would support for the presidency a man picked by the American representative. He refused, and the congress proceed to elect Francisco Henriquez y Carvajal as president, in the face of warnings that the American government had decided that he would not be ‘acceptable.’

“When the inevitable American-made treaty, identical with the one forced upon Haiti at the point of the bayonet, was presented to him, Henriquez spurned it. The American admiral landed marines – May, 1916 – and for six months used every pretext to increase his forces in the country, until the proclamation of the admiral that he had been made military governor was issued in November, 1916, some three weeks after the reelection of Woodrow Wilson on his “kept-us-out-of-war” platform.

“Thousands of marines were then spread over the country with unlimited authority over the natives,’ said Knowles. ‘Censorship of tongue, pen, press, mail and telegraph, of the severest kind, was established. Marines recruited in American cities and including ex-convicts were set in authority with the result that a reign of terror followed. Tortures, burning of homes, revival of Butcher Weyler’s concentration camps followed. Competent public employes by hundreds were dismissed to make room for foreign incompetents. Five years of this maladministration, repression, cruelty and provocation to conflict followed.

“They and all other nations of Latin American know today the new meaning of the Monroe Doctrine. That doctrine now means that when the Washington government shall choose to invade and destroy the liberty and independence of the next victim among the republics to the south, no European nation, no combination of European states, shall dare to protest or appeal against that deed of violence.”

The Appeal to Reason was affected, of course, by revolutionary events in Russia, which from the other side of the world seemed to be fulfilling their abstract ideas. The Appeal, admirably, published gruesome pictures and raised money for the victims of massive and horrific famine and starvation in Russia. In the 6 May 1922 issue, Upton Sinclair was uneasy about articles by long-time radical Emma Goldman: “Emma Goldman does not believe in force – at least not government force – and so she says that the Bolsheviks have betrayed the Revolution.”

Eugene V(ictor) Debs

A banner headline over the 20 July 1921 issue of The Appeal to Reason read: PRESIDENT HARDING, FREE DEBS NOW! WHY THIS LONG DELAY? ACT!

Debs had been convicted in 1918 and sentenced to ten years in prison. The charge was that Debs was obstructing military recruiting (at a time when there was no danger of the U.S. lacking troops as they were raised by conscription, rather than by volunteers, in World War I). Debs was simply expressing free speech in encouraging people not to join in a stupid war that was actually a family quarrel among the interrelated crowns of Europe. Hundreds of people were labeled traitors and imprisoned for expressing these opinions. World War I was not mentioned in the speech he made in Canton, Ohio, that was used to condemn him, only words such as

“Wars have been waged for conquest, for plunder,” but neither the lords of ancient times nor the “Wall Street junkers go to war….only their miserable serfs.”

He also said in that speech, “Are we opposed to Prussian militarism? Why, we have been fighting it since the day the Socialist movement was born; and we are going to continue to fight it, day and night, until it is wiped from the face of the earth.”

“To speak for labor; to plead the cause of the men and women and children who toil; to serve the working class, has always been to me a high privilege.”

“There are so many who seek refuge on the popular side of a great question. On account of that, I hope, as a Socialist, I have long since learned how to stand alone.”

By 1921, picketing for Debs to be released was widespread, and ex-veteran groups supported him, but President Wilson never relented. “I am not being kept a prisoner here for the speech I made at Canton in June 1918,” he said. “I am being kept here for the speeches I might make should I come out. I know that as well as I know my name. If I should get out of prison today I would continue my work on behalf of the workers, for Socialism, where I left off.” Perhaps someone at The New York Times had read those words as it seemed to echo: “The fact is, the Times wants Debs kept in jail, not for his wartime offenses, but for his socialistic opinions, which would turn the United States into another Russia.”

Invited to visit the U.S. to aid in the campaign for the release of Debs and other political prisoners, “George Bernard Shaw, the leading dramatist, critic and novelist of England who has been a hard-hitting radical all his life, replies: ‘What! Come to America! No, thank you. If they put Eugene V. Debs in prison for ten years for an extraordinarily mild remark, what would they do to me, who never open my mouth in public without saying things that would shock Eugene V. Debs to the bottom of his too tender heart? Electrocute me, perhaps.

“ ‘No, I know when I am safe; and that is out of America. You remember what I made the Kaiser say in my war play: “The statue of Liberty is in its proper place – on Liberty’s tomb.” Was I wrong?

“ ‘What a country! Afraid of Debs and proud of Dempsey! It’s too silly.’ ”

I still think the best translation of the Tao Te Ching is by Witter Bynner, and I was surprised to think how old that translation may be, as I find that Bynner wrote more than one verse, printed in the Appeal, in praise of Debs.

The Appeal printed a boxed article headlined DEBS’ THIRD BIRTHDAY IN PRISON:

“Eugene Victor Debs spent his 66th birthday (November 5) in Atlanta prison…According to Debs’ own estimate, however, he is only 26 years old. His real life – the life that counted – dated from his conversion to Socialism, Debs always said. ‘I became a Socialist in 1895,’ he would say, ‘and I never lived until I became a Socialist. Therefore, to all intents and purposes, I was born in 1895.’

“It was the smashing of the great American Railway Union strike by the political power of the capitalist state in the hands of Grover Cleveland, and the serving of a six months’ sentence in Woodstock jail, Chicago, for alleged violation of an injunction, that led Debs into the Socialist movement. He saw clearly, as a result of these events, that the workers must use their political as well as their economic power if they hope to emancipate themselves….Five times Debs has been the candidate of the Socialist party for President of the United States – in 1900, 1904, 1908, 1912, and 1920. His last candidacy occurred while he was in prison … He began his sentence on April 13, 1919, in the state penitentiary at Moundsville, W. Va. Later he was transferred to the federal prison at Atlanta … Deb’s ideals are growing throughout the world. Men’s minds and hearts are turning more eagerly and earnestly toward peace and freedom, not as hypocritical slogans of a master class but as genuine realities of an emancipated race….”

When Thomas Welsh, a soldier in the Irish Republican Army, was released from the federal prison in Atlanta, confined there for carrying a letter to the U.S. “in violation of the Trading with the Enemy Act,” he reported on his impressions: “Eugene V. Debs is the towering personality of Atlanta prison….Why this deference to Debs the Socialist? It is because he has refused every privilege offered to him that was denied to other prisoners; because he is the real spiritual counselor of the best and the worst of his prison fellows; because he has had the courage to go to the front on questions involving all of his fellows, and because around him has been built in their minds a tradition of real manhood that has inspired the conversion of what were regarded as incorrigible ‘bad men’ into model prisoners.

“A guard caught Debs one day speaking to another prisoner working in the yard – a violation of the rules. He reported Debs to the then deputy warden, Gregory, who ordered Debs sent to the ‘hole,’ a solitary confinement cell. The report ‘Debs has been sent to the hole’ flew around the penitentiary. Zerbst, the then warden heard it. He called Gregory to him and said: ‘Don’t you know that if that man went to the hole these men would pull this prison down brick by brick? Hereafter all reports about Debs come to me. He is MY prisoner.’ Debs did not go to the hole.

“When delicacies have come for Debs he has refused them because other prisoners could not receive similar kindnesses. But at Christmas time last year he received all that was sent to him because at that season all prisoners receive what is sent to them. Debs took everything and then distributed virtually all of his own gifts among those who received none. The rest he gave away in daily doles for two weeks to the patients in the prison hospital.

“Despite all reports to the contrary, Debs is treated exactly as any other prisoner – gets the same food; obeys the same rules. He gets up at 6:15; eats a breakfast of cereal, dry bread, and black coffee; cleans up his room (the state of his health causes him to live in the hospital, where he has a room, with an iron bed, an iron table and a chair), walks for an hour, returns to this room; eats a supper of beans, or bologna sausage or frankfurters and dry bread and black coffee, and returns to this room for the night. He has felt keenly the prison regulation that denies prisoners a bath except once a week, for he was accustomed to a daily bath.

“He was 66 years old recently and for a week before and a week after that event an average of 150 letters and telegrams from all over the country arrived to wish him well.

“Zerbst, the warden under President Wilson, thought very much of Debs. He believes him to be one of the best influences that ever entered into the prison life. This may be explained by stating the case of Sam Orr [elsewhere called “Sam Moore“], 50 years old, giant black man, who has served 30 years of a life sentence expiating a murder. Sam Orr was the worst of the bad men in the prison. Most of his 30 prison years he has spent in the ‘hole.’ Men were afraid of him. Debs arrived, discussed with him the consequences of his attitude, made Sam his friend, and Sam is now his devoted follower and an exemplar prisoner. … As for Orr, Debs told Welsh: ‘I would rather that man be given another chance in freedom than that I get out of this place myself.’ … Debs is a sick man. But he refuses to be pardoned on the ground of illness. He says he will tear up a pardon of this kind. He asserts he has committed no crime and that no conditions, therefore, shall be imposed upon his release….He doesn’t go to church, and I don’t know if he believes in any church, and I don’t care, for he is the finest Christian I have met in or out of prison. His Christianity makes a lot of professional exhorting look like a mockery. I have never heard him utter an evil or an unkind word of any one, and I have been probably his closest companion since I got to know him after I went to Atlanta.”


“The journey of Eugene V. Debs from the Federal prison in Atlanta, Ga., to the national capital in Washington, D.C. [required of him by the attorney general] and then to his home in Terre Haute, Ind., is the most thrilling chapter in American history. From the minute the news of his release was flashed across the country, all the way along his wonderful trip of triumph and acclaim, the fact loomed hourly larger that Debs is the best loved man, the most challenging and significant figure in American today. The spontaneous ovations Debs received all along his way have no parallel in history. Everywhere he was greeted by admiring crowds, surrounded by loving comrades, the center of attraction and of homage. Men and women not of Debs’ belief, by the hundreds, rushed to clasp the hand of the most honest and courageous man in America today. Newspaper reporters and photographers besieged Debs constantly. President Harding [in a meeting the attorney general required of him] told Debs he admired his courage. Senator Borah told Debs that he undoubtedly has the cleanest conscience of any man in America today.…

“The moment the order from the White House for Debs’ release reached Atlanta prison, Warden Dyche personally communicated to Debs.

’Thank you, Mr. Warden, thank you,’ said Debs, who at the moment was in his little room in the prison hospital reading the morning newspaper. ‘I shall get out of your way now just as soon as I pack up my few personal possessions.’

“ ‘Well, you don’t have to be in any hurry, Mr. Debs,’ replied the warden, smiling. ‘You’ve been a good boarder.’ “

After a moment, Debs walked out into the ward, tears streaming down his face.

“ ‘What the hell! They ain’t turned you down again, have they, Mr. Debs?’ asked a prisoner.”

“ ‘No, not this time,’ said Debs, ‘and that’s what is the matter with me. I can find no voice, no words, to tell you, how sorry I am to leave you here. There is no joy in my going out when I know in my soul that many of you have loving wives and little children praying through the long nights that you will be returned to their arms. I am trying to tell you as simply as I can how much I love you, how deeply I regret, after all, to be obliged to leave you men here. I shall think of you all in every waking hour…I shall also try to emulate the spirit of loving kindness that I have seen manifested in this place when every circumstance seemed in conspiracy to defeat and destroy the finer side of men’s natures… Remember, boys, my address is just Eugene Debs, Terre Haute, Indiana, and I’m your friend if you ever need me.’ ”

“At every barred window of the prison stood groups of convicts this Christmas Day -- 2,300 men, and when the tall figure of Debs was seen to get into the warden’s automobile there was a roar from the throats of these men that could be heard for blocks. Debs repeatedly turned around and waved his hat to them as tears rolled down the furrows of his face.”

Debs was mysterious about why he had to go first to Washington, D.C. (having been ordered to report there before he was permitted to return to his home and his sick wife in Terre Haute, Indiana).

About to board the train to Washington, Debs passed the engineer who “was examining his locomotive, oil cup in hand.”

“ ‘My name is Debs,’ said Gene, gripping the big palm of the engineer.

“ ‘No, go on! You’re kidding.’

" ‘Yes, this is I,’ said Debs.

“ ’By Jesus, you’re the greatest man in the country,’ said the engineer. ‘I’ll take care of you, all right.’

“ ’ The second part of my life is just beginning,’ said Debs to friends who were now surrounding him in Washington. ‘You know I have just graduated from a college where I got full tuition, and I’m better equipped now to continue my work than before I was admitted to college.’ ”

Meeting with Attorney General Daugherty, Debs directed Daugherty’s attention to the cases of Sam Moore [AKA “Orr”] and other prisoners. In the hotel where he stayed, Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor, and others, visited him.. He was asked by reporters if he “had discussed with President Harding the question of his citizenship” -- lost, I suppose, because of his “federal crime.”

“ ‘No,’ said Debs, smiling. ‘although I am not now a citizen of the United States, I am a citizen of the World. A man who is convicted and sentenced to prison for his principles is always a citizen in good standing. He is a citizen of the World by virtue of his God-given, inherent sovereignty. The only man who loses his citizenship is he who renounces his principles, abdicates his manhood and becomes an apostate to his own soul.’

He told the reporters, “I hope that I left Atlanta prison a little more humanized than I found it when I entered it nearly three years ago. I can never begin to tell you, gentlemen, of the thousand kindnesses that have been paid to me by the prisoners themselves.”

The Indiana Socialists had hired the large dining room of the hotel, and Debs spoke to them:

“My Friends and Comrades: I feel more deeply touched than can be expressed in words, however well chosen, by this demonstration of kindness, sympathy and good will. I am beginning to feel at home again in the state of Indiana, where I was born. After a long absence I am going home to those with whom I have shared my lot and with whom I shall journey on, hand in hand, to the end.

“I am somewhat doubtful of the safety of making a speech since the world was made safe for democracy.

“My speeches are not considered with good favor, and the last speech I made in a neighboring state cost me a sentence of 10 years in prison, nearly three of which I have served … It is a sweet privilege to stand here in your presence, to look in your faces. I speak to you, not as a Socialist, not as a member of any party, or a partisan of any creed. I speak to you as a human being. One touch of nature makes us all kin. We may become divided because of our various experiences, sufferings and success in life, but at the roots, we are the same, and at the end of our life’s journey we come to dust.

“But it is through our different experiences and our various contacts with life that we arrive at a higher civilization. To stand before you in this peculiar way touches my heart and fills me with a sense of humility too deep to express in words. I can hear a heart throb in this spontaneous gathering, and I know that all of the hearts here have for this moment at least, been melted into one great heart….There is no touch of bitterness in my heart and no taint of hatred for any human being of earth.

“I hate only hate. I hate the capitalist system. I hate oppression and cruelty. You and I may differ as to ways in reaching a higher and nobler civilization. We may travel different paths, but we can clasp each other by the hand, and thus do justice to our common human nature. … It is necessary that we have free speech, free press and free assemblages. ... ‘By the eternal gods, I defy any human being on earth to close my lips with a threat or to seal my thoughts with a warrant.”

500 people gathered to hear him speak as he was in the Union Station in Washington about to board the train for Indiana when the press “requested him to say something to the public.” After he had spoken for 10 minutes, he said, “I want to say this in closing. I am opposed to war, and I shall continue to oppose human slaughter in any form and for whatever cause. Nothing in this world is more sacred to me than human life. We should so conduct ourselves toward our fellow man that when the time comes for us to lay down our burden we may face that dreamless sleep with a clear conscience and a warm heart. Love is the greatest force in the world, and love at last will save us all, and will write our names in imperishable letters on the scroll of time. “

At this point, two uniformed policemen began pushing the crowd in the rear. Another figure jostled through the crowd until he reached Debs: “Where is your permit to make a radical speech?” asked the man.

“I have merely said that love is the greatest force in the world.”

Settled in his train compartment, Debs said, “Why that was almost like a Socialist meeting. They let me speak until I said love was a great force.”

In the 3 June 1922 issue of the Appeal, I believe it is Debs who sums up the vision:

“The Socialist party is the party of the working class and the common people. It knows no race, no creed, no color, no sex. It is the political expression of the workers and of the growing determination of the people to be free.

”The appeal of the Socialist party is to the workers of all nations to rise in their might, throw off their chains, stand erect in their majesty, and proclaim themselves, the common people, the sovereign rulers of the world.

“The Socialist party proposes to take over the nation’s industries and secure to every man and woman, the inalienable right to work and to the product of their labor, and the right to every child to eat and grow and play and go to school and have the same chance with every other child to succeed in life and find happiness in personal freedom and social service.

“The Socialist party aims to establish a real democracy by socializing the means of life, such as the mines and mills, the railroads and factories, the steamships and docks, in a word, the productive and distributive industrial mechanism of the nation, which has been socially created and developed and is socially used and operated, and should in all human justice and common sense be socially owned and controlled for the common good of all, seeing that the freedom, the safety, the very lives of all are dependent upon it.

“And this is precisely why every profiteering pirate, every Wall Street robber, every gouging landlord, every sweater of child labor, every exploiter and plunderer, every servile retainer in the press and pulpit, and every greasy political hireling of every species is arrayed against it, and this alone is its triumph and vindication.

“Hail to the workers and the common people of America and the world! The Socialist party espouses your cause, holds aloft your banner, and fights your battles until the sun of an emancipated race lights the world.”

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obama Morphed

It is wonderful to be in Oakland where the population could not be more various, and everyone talks to everyone else (Sorry, San Francisco, you were not very demonstrative on this happy day, 5 November 2008, following the evening when Barack Obama became President-Elect).  Oakland was especially grand and loving today.  Everywhere people were expressing their happiness, sometimes almost tearful again after admitting how they laughed and cried with joy at the moment when his election was confirmed.  Even before his election, I was seeing paintings that were tributes to Obama, as if he were already historical, every time I went to hear a speaker at the Center for the Art of Translation in San Francisco.  The last time I was there, this was on the wall:

The First Family:

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

ZAP No. Zero

I am looking for a place to sell (I guess I will try eBay, or Craig's List) this special old R. Crumb comic book, in good condition, ZAP Comix, No. 0 [zero]. I guess there may be some No. 0's around, undated, but this one is dated October 1967:

Monday, November 03, 2008

Oakland's New Cathedral

May take a nudge on the first one or two images for the slide show to start....